jack·​leg ˈjak-ˌleg How to pronounce jackleg (audio)
: characterized by unscrupulousness, dishonesty, or lack of professional standards
a jackleg lawyer
: lacking skill or training : amateur
a jackleg carpenter
: designed as a temporary expedient : makeshift
jackleg noun

Did you know?

Don't call someone jackleg unless you're prepared for that person to get angry with you. Throughout its more than 150-year-old history in English, jackleg has most often been used as a term of contempt and deprecation, particularly in reference to lawyers and preachers. Its form echoes that of the similar blackleg, an older term for a cheating gambler or a worker opposed to union policies. Etymologists know that blackleg appeared over a hundred years before jackleg, but they don't have any verifiable theories about the origin of either term.

Examples of jackleg in a Sentence

a toolshed that can be built by any jackleg carpenter who's capable of hitting a nail without smashing his thumb he did such a jackleg installation of that door frame that now the door won't shut

Word History


jack entry 1 + -leg (as in blackleg)

First Known Use

1833, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of jackleg was in 1833


Dictionary Entries Near jackleg

Cite this Entry

“Jackleg.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jackleg. Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

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